Since we were formed in 2006, Consumer Health First has worked with our state's elected officials and policy makers, as well as our members and partners across the state to achieve substantive advancements towards comprehensive, affordable and accessible health care for all Marylanders. This has resulted in the development of policies that positively impact consumers as well as important legislative victories.
This was the third General Assembly session of Governor Hogan's administration, and it was a busy one! 2,879 bills were filed, but only 359 of those bills passed. We focused this year primarily on securing legislation that protects Maryland's health care consumers in the event of repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or other federal actions. Consumer Health First supported the following bills in the 2017 session:
This bill ensures that consumer advocates and other stakeholders play a key role in informing "on any changes or program redesign" of the Medical Assistance Program (Medicaid). Given the current threats to the program at the federal level, and possibly at the state level, this was a critical move and we applaud the legislature for responding to our recommendation (read our press release).
This bill responds to threats to the Affordable Care Act by establishing a Commission to monitor any federal changes to the ACA, Medicaid, Medicare and the Maryland Children's Health Program and provide recommendations on actions at the state or local level. Consumer Health First's amendments were included in the final bill that passed into law without the Governor's signature. These included the extension of the Commission's term by two years and the authorization to create workgroups to inform its work. These are important to ensure the consumer voice in the process and to provide a reasonable timeframe given the uncertainties of action on the federal level. This bill passed into law without the Governor's signature.
Consumer Health First: Testimony in support of SB571 / HB0909
With the passage of this legislation, Maryland became the only state in the country to pro-actively address the threat to women's health in the event that the federal government revokes funding under Title X, the national family planning program. The bill directs $2.7 million in state funding to establish a Family Planning Program at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. This ensures that patients can continue to access these providers, including Planned Parenthood. Like SB571, this bill passed into law without Governor Hogan's signature.
SB 169 - Maryland Medical Assistance Program - Cost of Emergency Room Visits to Treat Dental Conditions - Study
The final bill combined HB1158 with SB169 and, really, the title says it all! There are a lot of contingencies built into this legislation, but it basically requires a study of the use of emergency rooms for the treatment of chronic dental conditions and authorizes, but does not require, DHMH to establish a Medicaid adult dental benefit.
Consumer Health First: Testimony in Support of Bill SB 169
On the last day of the session, and after sometimes contentious debate, the legislature passed a bill that would "give the state attorney general powers to sue drug manufactures that dramatically raise prices." It requires the Maryland Medicaid to notify the drug manufacturer and the Attorney General of an increase in the price of the drug, and to submit a statement to the Attorney General within 20 days after receipt of such notice. As an article in the Baltimore Sun noted, "This is a first-in-the-nation measure ..."
We applaud the great work of the Mental Health Association of Maryland and many other partners who successfully shepherded this bill into passage. The legislation requires that the Governor's budget include rate increases for community providers over and above the funding provided in legislative appropriations. This was accomplished by adding it to another bill, the Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort (HOPE) and Treatment Act (SB967).
This bill has passed, but has not yet been signed into law. If the Governor vetoes it, we will report it here. It adds the prescribing and dispensing of FDA approved contraceptive medications and self-administered contraceptive devices to pharmacists’ scope of practice.
Consumer Health First Testimony: Testimony in Support of Bills SB 363 / HB 613
The MD Dept. of Health must consult with stakeholders and identify up-to-date, evidence-based, written information about pregnant mother's mood and anxiety disorders. It also requires the Dept. of Health to provide information on its website and to health care facilities and providers of prenatal, labor and delivery, postnatal care, and expectant parents.
Consumer Health First Testimony: Testimony in support of SB 600 / HB 775
SB 340 / HB 1225 - University of Maryland School of Public Health, Center for Health Equity - Workgroup on Health in All Policies
This legislation requires the University of Maryland School of Public Health, Center for Health Equity, and the Department of Health to convene a workgroup to study and make recommendations for laws and policies that will positively impact the health of residents of the State.
Consumer Health First: Testimony in support of HB 1225
Renames the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to be the Maryland Department of Health; and renames the Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene to be the Secretary of Health.
Consumer Health First: Testimony in Support of Bill SB 82 / HB 180